Democratic lawmakers unveil food label bill with 'Top Chef' judge

Democratic lawmakers want Americans to know what they are eating.

With Chef Tom Colicchio, head judge of Bravo’s popular TV show ‘Top Chef,” Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerDems gain upper hand on budget Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOvernight Tech: FCC chief downplays delay to TV box reforms | Lawsuit filed over internet transition | Waze rolls out ridehailing service Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Leahy wants Judiciary hearing on Yahoo MORE (D-Conn.) introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act on Thursday.  Colicchio is a five-times James Beard Award winner, co-founder of Food Policy Action and founded Craft Restaurants.

The bill would direct the Food and Drug Administration to require food manufacturers to label food that contain genetically modified ingredients.

“Some in the food and chemical industry say adding this very small piece of information to food labels will confuse people, will alarm people,” Boxer said. “Well that argument is a familiar one. It’s been raised by almost every single industry when they want to avoid giving consumer basic facts about the product they’re buying.”

Because other states – Vermont, Main and Connecticut - already have labeling laws, genetically modified food advocates say adding additional labels will mislead Americans. 

“When it comes to food labeling, Americans deserve a national standard that is consistent from state to state, easy to follow and does not lead to higher grocery prices,” said Claire Parker, spokeswoman of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food.

“Unfortunately, the Boxer/DeFazio bill does not create a national labeling standard and would only serve to exacerbate the labeling conundrum by adding a federal mandate and penalties, combined with a patchwork of state laws and regulations.”

Though opponents claim a labeling rule will increase food prices for consumers, Chef Tom Colicchio said it’s not true.

“Manufacturers change food packaging all the time without an increase in food prices,” he said. “May I suggest if GMOs are as wonderful as their proponents say they are perhaps instead of spending money on lobbyists, they actually hire a few publicists to sell the public on their virtues.”

Colicchio said he’s not anti-science, but companies are using these technologies as a business model to sell farmers more herbicides.

“I don’t think Congress should shield companies or keep Americans in the dark when it comes to what we put on our tables and feed our families,” he said.

When asked what that estimated cost increase for consumers would be, DeFazio said the estimate is as much as two-thirds a cent per day.

“Tom Brady’s probably going to end up on a Wheaties box someday soon,” Colicchio said. “I guess it’s OK to change the labeling for that.”